Anna Kochetkova grew up in Russia, in a conservative and close-minded culture where men in drag were admired but homosexuality was taboo. She moved to Australia at the age of 22, encouraged by her family who wanted her to see the world. However, she was also warned about the “dangers” of Western culture including materialism and non-conservative ideas.
Anna decided to do her own investigation. Using Google Earth she zoomed in on many beautiful Australian homes—unknowingly mostly of rich neighbourhoods—with swimming pools, plenty of land, and big houses along the coastline of Australia.
As a result of her “highly scientific research”, Anna was convinced that Australia was indeed a land of plenty and that it would provide for her once she landed in Sydney. It was easy to believe such extraordinary conclusions, because growing up in Russia was a very different experience for Anna.
Upon arrival to Australia in 2008, Anna quickly learnt that this wasn’t how things worked—however, it held true that citizens are cared for in Australia much more than back in Russia. What she discovered was a country of opportunity with a welfare system that supported disadvantaged people and those living with a disability, which wasn’t something she had often seen back in Russia.
“When I first moved to Australia, I distinctly remember seeing a person in a wheelchair holding a drink in a nightclub,” she told Inclusive Australia. “I was so surprised. I hardly ever saw a person in a wheelchair in public in Russia, let alone out partying.”
She was also surprised by the openness of people with diverse sexualities and gender expression.
“In Russia, at least where I am from, to be anything but straight is extremely taboo,” she said. “Even today there is still no way to be safe in expressing queerness. People in smaller towns could be harmed or even killed for their sexuality, and nothing would likely be done about it.”
A law passed in 2013 made it illegal to “propaganda” homosexuality in Russia, essentially banning any expression of queerness.
Despite Australia’s freedoms, when Anna began grappling with her own sexuality and turned to the internet seeking a community to help her through this journey, she found surprisingly few options at the time.
While there was plenty of content to browse through, there were very few community spaces specifically for bisexual people that offered the support she was looking for.
“All the online content I came across in my learning was either humorous or speaking from a place of ‘knowing’,” Anna said. “But I wanted content that came from a place of learning and discovery, because that is where I was. I wanted to connect with people who were going through what I was—I wanted to know that I wasn’t crazy, because I certainly felt that way at the time”.
In the end, Anna decided to create her own community, which she has been nurturing and curating since. The Bi & Prejudice Instagram space celebrates multisexual attraction and human diversity. Following the theme of being true to oneself, the Instagram account gives people an opportunity to speak about what bisexuality means to them and share their experiences. It has become the place of genuine connection and community for which Anna had been searching, and a place which has been especially precious during the current Covid-19 lockdowns across the nation.
The response has been huge!
“People really identify with each other’s experiences,” Anna said.
The success encouraged her to expand the conversation. She has now written a book, Bi & Prejudice, which draws on her and others’ stories to give voice to the personal experiences that are often silenced, misunderstood or the subject of ridicule. The book also discusses the intersection of identities with which sexuality is closely intertwined, including race, sex, gender expression, upbringing, culture, and mental health, to name a few. Anna hopes her book will help create more honest conversations about bisexuality, and move towards breaking taboos, stigmas, and misunderstandings.
Throughout 2019 and 2020, she hosted Changing Conversations events where people were encouraged to talk about challenging topics including animal rights, feminism, climate change, sex, and mental health. The events discussed ways of bringing these conversations to family dinners, pub gatherings and everyday interactions, with the aim of creating more opportunities for open dialogue. Conversations like these, Anna explains, are “an integral part of our lives”.
“I am deeply passionate about improving our understanding and knowledge of mental health, anxiety and depression, especially amongst the multisexual community. It's time to confront the belief systems that no longer serve us, and our own prejudice and fears.
“The common mistrust of bisexuality partially arises from ignorance and lack of education; however, neither of these are valid reasons to remain in the dark.”
In her day job, Anna has spent over a decade designing ethical and effective social media campaigns for gifted and meaningful not-for-profit organisations.
“My work adds meaning to my everyday life, because I get to contribute towards real change on a scale I could never have done on my own. I’m grateful for my business and my clients, who enable change, better mental health and freedom.”
Anna is also a strong advocate for a no-phone-notifications lifestyle and limiting social media in our lives. Given she is a social media strategist, this might seem counterintuitive; however, she believes that good social media work is based on data and smart strategy rather than constant connectivity.
“Social media has made everything feel instant and urgent, so we have become much less patient. Turning off your notifications means you gain clarity back, and make more conscious decisions about how you want social media to feature in your life.”
“My mindset and wellbeing have definitely improved.”
You can also pre-order her debut book, Bi & Prejudice, here.
To hear about the lives and experiences of more Australians, follow _somebodydifferent on Instagram.
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